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Size Does Matter

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the when-it-comes-to-innovation dept.

Games 21

Gamespot has a piece up discussing the relative dangers of innovation for large developers. Should an EA be more willing to innovate than, say, The Behemoth? From the article: "We want to make sure that all of the franchise businesses have the right level of innovation inside them and I think that we have been guilty of not doing that historically in certain areas of the business ... So a focus for us right now is, how do we get new, innovative features that take the existing franchises and move them forward in interesting ways? And then I think what you'll see is a couple of--you know a couple might be the wrong term--but some very focused bets at doing really innovative and different things.'" The second part in a two-part series, with part one still available.

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What? (1)

Saiyine (689367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14327682)


relative dangers of innovation for large developers

So innovation is now dangerous? And only for large developers? Yeah, that should be what killed Apple... errr.

Game developers should spend less money in ads and more in innovation. It's a win win situation.

Of Course Innovation is Dangerous (2, Insightful)

duerra (684053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14327752)

Of course innovation is dangerous. When you do things that haven't been done before, you risk alienating or turning off your potential userbase. And we're talking about gamers here, which are absolutely notorious for coming down (and hard!) on things they don't like.

Making something innovative carries huge risks, especially in the gaming community.

Re:Of Course Innovation is Dangerous (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14328107)

Your fans will only be pissed off if you add innovation they don't like to a franchise they otherwise liked. I don't think anyone would hold off buying e.g. the next Zelda because he didn't like Yoshi Touch & Go. Neither would someone stop buying Madden because EA released Catwoman.

Re:Of Course Innovation is Dangerous (1)

Meagermanx (768421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14328496)

Yeah, but they might think twice about picking up the next Zelda if the one before it sucked ass.
If innovation can only be achieved in spin-offs and indie games, that kind of limits how innovative they can get.

Re:Of Course Innovation is Dangerous (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14329046)

Noone forces you to innovate in any long standing franchise, you can just abandon it (or put it on ice), make your innovative game and if that fails go back to your old franchise.

Re:Of Course Innovation is Dangerous (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14369501)

The problem with that is, that if developers innovate in new titles rather than the mainstream franchises, the Slashdot whiners crawl back out of the woodwork moaning that EA etc. are being lazy releasing the same game every year with few changes.

Then if they DO introduce changes to their favourite franchises they whine that it's ruined them.

Not to mention spending millions on an innovate game that completely flops is one of the more likely things to have the shareholders breathing down your neck.

No matter what you do, fanboys and comic book guy types are going to whine about it. Best to ignore them and do what makes the most money, no point pandering to people who are never going to be pleased.

Re:What? (2, Interesting)

servognome (738846) | more than 8 years ago | (#14328158)

So innovation is now dangerous?

Yes it is very dangerous. Look at the backlash of fans when EA introduced QB vision into Madden 2006. It transformed part of the game to require more skill by the player.

And only for large developers?

Look at SWG. The original "sandbox" style MMO was different than the loot n level gameplay of most MMOs. It did have it's strong supporters, but for a large developer the user base was too small to justify. A smaller developer can get away with alot more in the non-mainstream space than a large developer.

Game developers should spend less money in ads and more in innovation. It's a win win situation.

Tell that to the makers of "Beyond Good and Evil" and "Psychonauts."

Re:What? (1)

DerWulf (782458) | more than 8 years ago | (#14345057)

Apple is not the most profitable company under the sun. And therein lies the problem: If I can make X dollars with an innovative title but X+1 dollars by implementing a tried and true formula for an equal amount of money invested, why go with the first? And don't forget the risk: the Natural Evolution Mod for HL was great on paper, it *was* an innovation but from a gameplay standpoint it plain sucked. Had it been a commercial product, it would have absolutly tanked. Given the choice, I'd much rather limit myself to futher iterations of Command and Conquer, Need for Speed, Civ etc than only to have "experiments" available. Sometimes people just want more of the same.

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14327736)

We want to make sure that all of the franchise businesses have the right level of innovation inside them and I think that we have been guilty of not doing that historically in certain areas of the business.

How about start by not locking out your competition (your primary reason to be innovative) by buying exclusivity licenses?

Scratch the current "business plan" (1)

dc29A (636871) | more than 8 years ago | (#14327774)

So a focus for us right now is, how do we get new, innovative features that take the existing franchises and move them forward in interesting ways? And then I think what you'll see is a couple of--you know a couple might be the wrong term--but some very focused bets at doing really innovative and different things.

Step 1: Stop making sequels with no noticable gameplay differences but a bit nicer graphics. Infact, let's stop this sequel bullshit.

Step 2: Stop making games based on movies.

Step 3: Profit!

The current "business plan" on making sequel after sequel is not innovation. Making mostly three genres of games (FPS, Sports and Driving) isn't the solution either. Game industry needs to make original games. No more recycled turd.

The real problem (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14327845)

So a focus for us right now is, how do we get new, innovative features that take the existing franchises and move them forward in interesting ways?

With a handful of exceptions here is the real problem; when most companies think of inovation they're not thinking of new genres or paradigm shifts in existing genres, they're thinking of small (mostly pointless) features. "When playing Madden, look at how the linebackers now pick their Blitz Lane depending on the offensive line-up; how inovative "

I can't speak for most people but I think it is far more important that developers should be reconsidering how people play games; Katamari, Nintendogs, Electroplanktin, Kirby's Canvas Curse are all very different (conceptually) than most other games we have played.

Re:The real problem (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14369574)

Nintendogs innovative? I don't see how earth-shatteringly different it is to 'Dogz' which was released over a decade ago.

Mass Appeal? (2, Informative)

Chaffar (670874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14327987)

That focus on mass appeal wasn't the only departure from the development method Scandizzo grew familiar with at Blizzard.

Well actually Blizzard DOES focus on mass appeal, albeit not as "massive" as the one EA targets...

IMHO, Blizzard isn't really an "innovator" in games, their talent is in simplifying complex games as much as possible and spending a lot of time balancing the different teams/races/characters to make sure that online/replay value is maximized.

I mean, Diablo didn't really "innovate", and I find it pretty funny to watch a guy play the game, 'cause all he does is hammer the left/right mouse button repeatedly, with the occasional F1->F8 slamming. Yet I spent MONTHS playing.

Conclusion: Focus on the QUALITY of your title, it'll sell itself, instead of focusing on stupid buzzwords such as "innovation".

An Idea! (1)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14328008)

Call the next Madden game: Madden NFL Football 3000-994 Extreme Thinking Edition!

Of course it will have the same tired gameplay, with the same AI glitches, and updated graphics... that's innovation, right?

They should (4, Insightful)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14328835)

Big companies should be the ones leading innovation in industries they already exist.

The problem with monopolies is that they have the ability, resources, and money to continuously improve, make things cheaper for themselves and the customer, but they don't. They use their clout to raise prices, protect themselves, and screw the consumer. It's all about greed.

This is why we have the problems with EA overworking their employees.

This is why we have the MPAA/RIAA crawling up our asses.

Google is a good show of what can happen when a good monopoly comes around. While they aren't really a monopoly yet, they are slowly working there way there, but even after starting stock trades, they still seem to keep to their "do no evil" stance.

Nintendo is another example. While it certainly isn't a monopoly by any stance (at least, now), they have lots of money, lots of resources, and lots of clout, and they continue to reinvent gaming, first with games like Animal Crossing and Pikmin, then the Revolution itself.

Re:They should (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14369654)

Criticising Slashdot hate-figure EA, cricising Slashdot hate-figure the RIAA, thinly-veiled criticism of Slashdot hate-figure Microsoft, praising the Slashdot-favourites Google and Nintendo...

Well done, five instances of playing to the crowd and toeing the line in one post, surely the greatest example of karma-whoring in Slashdot history? I don't even begrudge your being modded up because I think that clever cynical ploys should be appreciated.

Re:They should (1)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14370843)

Well done, five instances of playing to the crowd and toeing the line in one post, surely the greatest example of karma-whoring in Slashdot history?

Nah, I've done better. :)

(My sig is what it is for a reason.)

If your corporate strategy includes the word... (1)

OSXCPA (805476) | more than 8 years ago | (#14329405)

"Innovation", you are screwed. Innovation is creativity applied to preexisting knowledge (my short definition). Telling your employees "innovate NOW" is like telling a comedian "say something funny RIGHT NOW". A rare few can do it. In large organizations, with established bureaucracies, cliques, etc., and especially the ingrained fear of failure that having a culture of employee abuse and ill-regard engenders, like EA (by all accounts I've read), I can't imagine how they could innovate, even assuming management still understands the meaning of the word, which based on press and employee accounts, it appears they do not.

I don't like EA's thinking on Innovation (3, Insightful)

dyslexicbunny (940925) | more than 8 years ago | (#14329599)

"It's a really difficult thing to create something that is completely new, completely different and successful," Young says. "People continue to put their money down for categories that they know and love. I don't think you're going to suddenly stop liking racing games or stop liking shooters or stop liking adventure games. Most of the categories have already been covered so finding completely new categories that feel entirely fresh I think is very, very hard to do."

Innovation doesn't just include creating new genres. Redefining a genre or crossing two genres is innovation enough. Look at the state of the FPS prior to Half-Life and look at it afterwards.

We aren't asking you to cure cancer, we just want to see something new and refreshing. 600 different expansions of the Sims or $50 for new rosters is not innovative. Yes, innovation is risky but I'm pretty sure someone would have clubbed me for my cave years ago without it.

"Conservative decisions are not a bad thing when you're shepherding billions of dollars of shareholder value," Young points out. "What's important to shareholders is not the degree of conservatism but the degree of return. What's important is that you're growing the business year-on-year."

Blah, blah, blah. Management Speak for 'We just want money first and innovation second.' I can't blame them but at the same time, they could have been more sensitive about the issue.

"EA used to have an idea where they wanted you to have a 14-word motto for your game that would sum up in the public eye what your game was," Scandizzo says. "In fact, it became a big problem that we couldn't sum ours up quickly enough as a 14-word motto. I think the problem which some innovation has run into is it's really difficult to sum it up in 14 words."

Gamers aren't at the same level of thinking as management. Show us a concept and we don't need 14 words to define it. If it's intuitive, we can figure it out. If not, I tend to turn away. Perhaps this is more of an indication that the people in charge are seperated from their market. I'm just glad someone in the industry thinks EA has it wrong at a management level. It's not just the people but rigid thinking and policies.

But what do I know, I don't work in the industry.

Innovation relative to other fields (1)

Lifelike (937107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14331431)

There is no question that games will continue to become more and more expensive and distribution of them will become more and more complicated," Garriott says. "And so the small guys and the startups will continue to be squeezed out at a greater and greater rate..."

Hmm. Anone else getting the idea then that the answer might lie in innovation not in the way games designs are made, but the costs of development themselves? One of the reasons why the independent film industry is doing so well these days is that entry fees are still pretty inexpensive (well, relative to starting up your own game). After all, games with fantastic gameplay and crappy controls/ art won't sell even if they are the great american masterpeice. Speaking of which, one area where I NEVER hear complaints about innovation in the field is the literature industry, probably since the production costs are so low. Even that is fading though, as big production houses and mega-chain bookstores swallow up the indie book landscape. Then again, books will be around for as long as the english language is still used. How long before we ditch games made as recently as 15 years ago?

What developers don't think about (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335377)

One thing that companies like EA fail to do is to look at the market and look for places where there is a demand but no product to fill that demand. It's a fairly simple concept that EA and other companies fail to understand.

In the movie industry, they do this ALL the time, and it's why you will see cycles of the types of movies. Some years you have a bunch of sequels, in other years you have movies from a given genre show up a LOT(disaster films, fantasy movies, superheros, and the list goes on).

There has been a shortage of adventure games since Sierra got bought out by VU Games for example, but there has been so much focus on games that people can play mindlessly for months on end that adventure games have mostly disappeared from the mainstream.

Fantasy adventure has a lot of room, yet we see very little development of NEW worlds because creativity has been bleeding out of the US game developer market. It's not gone completely, but here in the USA, we don't see a lot of innovation. Games developed in Asia don't generally catch on over here because of cultural differences.

Developers like Bioware continue to develop good titles that sell well because people are starved for storyline in games. What many people really want are interactive movies where they are in control of the main character. For shooters, people take the role of the main character, and have fun running around shooting people. In fantasy RPGs, people tend to want to either be a figure for good, evil, or someone who can manipulate situations from the shadows, not being one extreme or the other.

Developers in general don't understand why they don't get as many women playing games, but they don't look to other areas. The old Sierra adventures worked toward that end by avoiding the violence and the "I don't like what you are saying so I'll just kill you" approach of so many games out there. The Gabriel Knight games were mostly an interactive mystery novel which a LOT of people enjoyed playing.

Now, EA HAS figured out one thing, but they don't seem to understand it. If you have a good game engine, and can use it in a new program, you reduce the cost of development for each new title and you can make a fortune. It's why the sports games make them so much money, it's the same engine over and over again. If EA and other developers can focus on a GOOD game engine that is open enough to be re-used in other games, not just in sequels of the first game to use it, the developer can reduce costs enough to make an amazing game. Bioware did it with the Infinity engine which they developed for the original Baldur's Gate. It didn't make it to games outside the AD&D themed ones, but it COULD have been used in many more games. The Aurora engine hasn't been used by other games, and as a result didn't help on costs, so Neverwinter Nights didn't end up making Bioware as much money from the development. Keep in mind that the reason Baldur's Gate 2 did so well was because it really was almost epic in scope. It used an updated version of the Infinity engine. As a result, the game was fairly large. If the engine had to be written from scratch, the game would have been a LOT shorter, had fewer features, and wouldn't have been so popular.

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